Over the next few years, established German luxury automakers are expected to respond to Tesla's success with a series of high-end electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

Mercedes-Benz has already discussed an electric car, with a possible introduction date of 2019.

Both a sedan and an crossover are rumored, giving Mercedes models to parallel the Tesla Model S and Model X.

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Now, it appears a crossover utility vehicle could be the first long-range electric car to arrive from the world's oldest automaker.

Without confirming anything, Mercedes R&D boss Thomas Weber hinted that the carmaker is prioritizing an electric crossover in a recent interview with Car and Driver.

Weber said the new model will not be anything like the company's previous electric models, which include the B-Class Electric Drive, SLS AMG Electric Drive sports car, and the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive.

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE350e Plug-In Hybrid

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE350e Plug-In Hybrid

None of these models were intended for particularly high sales volumes, but Mercedes could take a more aggressive approach with this new electric car.

Weber hinted that it will be a crossover, saying that sedans "are not particularly well suited to storing large battery packs."

With competitor Audi set to launch an all-electric version of its Q6 "crossover coupe" in 2018, Mercedes may also be eyeing the plans of other German brands, as well as Tesla.

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While Weber said the new model will be "cool and emotional," it's unclear whether it will have as heavy an emphasis on styling as the Audi, or whether it will use a more traditional SUV body.

Unlike the Audi--which is also expected to be offered with internal-combustion powertrains--the electric Mercedes could be a standalone model.

Mercedes is rumored to be working on a project code-named "EcoLuxe" that will yield a new vehicle architecture that can be used for battery-electric, plug-in hybrid, or hydrogen fuel-cell powertrains.

Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile concept, 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show

Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile concept, 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show

The plug-in hybrid Concept IAA (Intelligent Aerodynamic Automobile) that debuted at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show may have been a preview of this platform.

Mercedes previously owned a small stake in Tesla and contracted with the company to provide running gear for three models.

MORE: Mercedes-Benz Concept IAA Changes Shape For Better Efficiency

It subsequently sold that stake, and is likely looking to move development of future electric cars completely in-house.

Electric cars will augment Mercedes' growing fleet of plug-in hybrids, including plug-in versions of the S-Class and C-Class sedans, and the GLE-Class SUV.


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